Energy Take Classic Home Theater System

The Short Form

$599 / energy-speakers.com / 866-441-8208
Snapshot
A compact system that delivers beautiful sound and heavyweight value.
Plus
•Excellent sound quality for a compact system •Classy styling •Robust build quality •Affordable
Minus
•Limited volume levels and bass response •Tiny, substandard binding posts
Key Features
Take Classic satellite •3-in poly-titanium cone driver; 3/4-in aluminum dome tweeter; 6 7/8 in high; 2 7/8 lb Take Classic center •3-in poly-titanium cone driver; 3/4-inch aluminum dome tweeter; 10 1/4 in wide; 3 1/4 lb ESW-8 subwoofer •8-in cone driver; 200-watt amplifier; 14 5/8 x 12 5/8 x 12 5/8 in; 19 3/4 lb
Test Bench
The Take Classic left/right/surround speaker has fairly smooth response, but with a narrow irregularity above 1 kHz. Its directivity is well controlled. The center speaker performed similarly to the satellites and had minimal off-axis lobing compared to a typical center speaker with a mid/tweeter/mid driver array. Both models have limited dynamic capability in the low frequencies. The ESW-8 sub's unusually extended upper-frequency bandwidth makes it a good match for the satellites. But its low-frequency dynamic capability is limited, falling off at 22 dB per octave below 62 Hz. - Tom Nousaine

The cliché "good things come in small packages" rarely applies to speakers. Generally, if you want good sound, you need lots of speaker - with big cone area to move the air and big cabinet volume to support the bass. To compete, small speakers must use smart design and darn good components - which brings us to Energy's Take Classic home theater speaker system.

Appropriately enough, the Take Classic is an example of classic speaker design. Nothing trendy, outrageous, or funky here. It consists of small satellites and a compact subwoofer, each housed in a medium-density-fiberboard cabinet and faced with a glossy black finish.

Four of the satellites are identical, standing about 7 inches tall. Each sports a 3/4-inch tweeter and a 3-inch woofer (vertically aligned), with a rear-firing port. The black grille cloth is detachable. Unlike the flimsy, breakable grilles on many budget speakers, this one is extraordinarily solid - a sign of good overall build quality. For mounting options, the cabinet has a keyhole slot in back, as well as a threaded insert. The center speaker is similar to the other satellites, except for its elongated profile. It has the same tweeter and woofer (but placed horizontally), two front-firing ports, and two keyhole slots and one insert in back.

The ESW-8 subwoofer is a larger model than you'd expect to find mated with such small satellites. A 200-watt amplifier powers its downward-firing 8-inch driver, and the cabinet is vented with a front-firing port. The control set includes volume, low-pass filter crossover (40 to 150 Hz), phase (0° and 180°), and power mode (on, auto, off). There are stereo line- and speaker-level inputs.

SETUP

I prefer big speakers - except when I have to drag them around my listening room. Compared with the ogres that keep my chiropractor on speed-dial, the lightweight Take Classics were a breeze to set up. I used speaker stands in the corners, and I placed the center speaker below my Samsung TV. The subwoofer went straight to my favorite sub spot: along the front wall, halfway between the center speaker and a sidewall.

Some small complaints about the satellites: The binding posts seem cheap compared with the rest of the speaker, and they're tiny. Also, the red and black plastic caps are easily removable and interchangeable. Terminal polarity should be more permanently marked.

I drove the satellites with a 100-watts-per-channel Denon receiver, topping out the 20 to 100 watts that Energy recommends for these speakers. I put my receiver's speaker settings to Small and the crossover frequency to Energy's recommended 110-Hz setting. Using pink noise, I set output levels. I then let a week go by, burning in the speakers, biding my time.

MUSIC PERFORMANCE

I started my listening with simple stereo playback (front left and right satellites and subwoofer) using Tom Petty's classic Full Moon Fever. This album was recorded in a hurry without the Heartbreakers, but it's one of Petty's most memorable works.

The lead vocals on "Free Fallin'" are mixed dry and forward. Petty's characteristic twang was nicely reproduced by the Take Classic combination, with spot-on tonal quality. The echo effect on the chorus was clearly audible, indicating good detail in the reproduction. The stereo multi-tracked vocals on the words "Ventura Boulevard" also came across exactly right, indicating a good soundstage - surprising from such small speakers. The backup vocals (courtesy of George Harrison and Roy Orbison) also displayed good imaging. And the hi-hat, quite pulled back in this mix, was appropriately muted in timbre.

The snare on "I Won't Back Down" is the epitome of a "trash-can snare" sound. The speakers reproduced it well, but a slight added edge called the tweeters into question. Petty's vocals were correctly thin with clean enunciation, conveying the clarity of the original tracks. The slide guitar was silky smooth, further verifying the Take Classic's natural-sounding midrange. As recorded, the bass and drums sound laid-back, but I still expect a little more impact than what the sub could provide.

A good sat/sub interchange is vital in the hard-driving "Runnin' Down a Dream." However, there was a tonal mismatch between the lower satellite response and the upper sub response. I varied the crossover frequency but could never absolutely dial this in. With the sub called upon to reproduce upper bass frequencies due to the high crossover setting, its sound was more localized than usual. Also, when I cranked up the song to concert level, the speakers swiftly complained with distortion in the satellites and cabinet resonances in the sub. But they were no worse here than most other compact speakers.

Delay effects on some vocal phrases, stereo acoustic guitars in the chorus, and other details in "Runnin' Down a Dream" were nicely articulated. Many small speakers would make a muddy mess of the electric guitars, percussion, and backup vocals in the instrumental coda, but these little guys kept everything running smoothly.

The surround mix on the DVD-Audio disc of Porcupine Tree's In Absentia makes full use of all six channels, and its surround balance was excellent on the Take Classic system. For example, at the beginning of "Trains," lead vocals are placed identically in the five main channels. Thanks to the satellites' matching drivers, the effect was evenly balanced. But smaller cabinets are prone to spatial hot spots, where sound is localized at the cabinets, and that was the case here. Instead of a consistent circle of surround, some panned images were audibly placed at the speaker locations.

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